Marguerite Stockman Dickson.

Vocational Guidance for Girls online

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equal._ We have already said that the girl distinctly not home-minded
is more safely left to her own inclinations. She would not be a
success as a homemaker under any circumstances. Other girls may be
made or marred by the years which intervene between their school and
home life.

[Illustration: Copyright by Underwood & Underwood
The value of domestic work of any sort as a preparation for
homemaking is generally admitted without argument.]

The value of domestic work of any sort as a preparation for homemaking
is generally admitted without argument. Closely in touch with a home
throughout her maturing years, the girl may undertake her own
housekeeping problems with ease and efficiency. Conditions as they
often exist, however, especially for the younger and untrained
domestic worker, do not allow the girl to obtain other experience
quite as necessary if she is to become not merely a housekeeper but a
true homemaker. The untrained girl who enters upon domestic work at
fourteen or fifteen should have opportunity - indeed the opportunity
should be thrust upon her - of attending a continuation school, where
the special aim should be to counteract the narrowing tendency of work
which revolves about so small an orbit. Ideals of home life are either
lacking or distorted in the minds of many working girls, and when such
girls become wives and mothers they strive for the wrong things or
they fall back without striving at all, taking merely what comes. They
fail to be forces for good in their family life.

[Illustration: Demonstration by teacher in domestic science. Teaching
affords excellent preparation for the prospective homemaker.]

Teaching and nursing may be grouped together as excellent preparation
for the prospective homemaker. It may be contended that the teacher
and the hospital nurse spend years outside the home environment and
that their minds are turned to other problems than those of
housekeeping. This contention is undoubtedly true; and if we were
striving merely to make housekeepers, it might be worthy of serious
consideration. The home, however, as we have defined it, is a place in
which to make people, and both the nurse and the teacher serve a long
apprenticeship in this sort of manufacture. Expert workers in either
line concern themselves with the bodies and the minds of their pupils
or patients. They, together with physicians, lawyers, and social
workers, have opportunities which can scarcely be equaled for learning
by observation and experiment about the human relations that will
confront them in their own homes. They learn to be resourceful and to
meet the emergencies of which life is full; they have the advantage
of trained minds to set to work upon the administrative problems which
underlie successful home life.

[Illustration: Copyright by Underwood & Underwood
Women medical students. Physicians and surgeons have unusual
opportunities for learning by observation and experiment about the
human relations that will confront them in their own homes]

A question may arise as to the physical fitness for marriage and
motherhood of the girl who has given her nerve force to the exacting
and often depleting work of nurse, teacher, or physician. It is
unquestionably true that nurses and teachers do often wear out after
comparatively few years at their vocation, although of the majority
the opposite is true. This merely means that conditions surrounding
these vocations should be studied with a view to their improvement, if
necessary, since we believe the vocations to be suited to women and
women to the vocations.

Office work may prove an excellent training for certain phases of
homemaking work. Neatness, accuracy, precision, the doing again and
again of constantly recurring tasks, all find their place and use in
the housekeeper's routine. The calm atmosphere of the well-kept office
even when typewriters and calculating machines are rattling is a
better preparation for an orderly home than the rush of the department
store or the factory. Purely routine workers, who put little or no
thought into their daily tasks, will enter upon homemaking lacking the
initiative that homemakers need. But the able office worker is not
merely a follower of routine. The greatest lack of office work as
preparation for a homemaking career is that the girl's interests
during so large a part of her day are led away from the home and all
that pertains to it. She works neither with people nor with the things
which go to make homes. Probably, on the whole, office work in a
general way may be classed as a neutral occupation, which neither adds
to, nor reduces, in any great degree the girl's possibilities as a

Salesmanship for girls, especially in the great department stores of
the cities, is a vocation of at least doubtful advantage for the
home-minded girl to pursue as a step in her training for managing her
own home. In the quiet of the village store, with few associates in
work, and with one's neighbors and fellow townsmen for customers,
salesmanship takes on a somewhat different aspect. But the city store
means usually hurry, excitement, nerve strain, a long day, with quite
probably reaction to excessive gayety and hence more nerve strain at
night. It means spending one's days among great collections of finery
which tend to assume undue importance in the girl's eyes. It means
constant association with people who spend, until spending seems the
only end in life. It means almost always pay lower than is consistent
with decent living if the girl must depend alone upon her own
earnings. And none of these things tends toward steady, skillful,
contented wifehood and motherhood in later years. This question of
underpaid work is of course not found alone in the department store.
But, wherever it is found, we may be sure that it tends on the one
hand toward marriage as a way of escape from present want, and on the
other toward inefficiency in the relation so lightly assumed.

The factory girl is in many respects in a position parallel to that of
the saleswoman. She earns too little to make comfortable living
possible. She too must leave home early and return late, wearied by
the monotony of a day in uninteresting surroundings, with neither
energy nor inclination for anything other than complete relaxation and
"fun." This desire for relaxation leads her often away from a crowded,
ill-supported home in the evenings, until the habit settles into a
confirmed disposition. This is a decided handicap for a homemaker.
Coupled with the mental inertia resulting from years of mechanical
work without thought, it provides poor material from which to make
steady, responsible, efficient women. We have already noted, however,
that factories differ widely. It follows of necessity that the girls
who work in them come from their work with all grades of ability.

The actress, the artist, and the literary woman are usually spoken of
as far removed from the true domestic type. This I cannot believe to
be true, except in individual cases. All these women, as makers of
finished products, stand far nearer to the traditional type of woman
than many others we might name. The life of the actress tends more
than the others perhaps to break home ties, but in the case of real
talent in any direction ordinary rules do not apply. The actress, the
artist, and the writer are much more likely to carry on their work
after marriage than the teacher, the office worker, or even the
factory woman. Many of them succeed to a remarkable degree in doing
two things well. Many more, of course, are less successful, but we
must not overlook the fact that the failures are more noised abroad
than the successes.

It is a matter for regret that most women, upon leaving an industrial
career for marriage, drop so completely out of touch with their former
work. In the case of the untrained woman, who has received little and
given little in her work, it is a matter of no moment; but when years
have been given to skilled labor, it is economic waste to have the
skill lost and the process forgotten. Many times the woman finds
herself after a short life in the home obliged to earn a living once
more for herself or it may be for a family. She returns to her
teaching or her office work or a position in the library; but she is
no longer, at least for a considerable time, the expert she once was.
Why should not the former teacher keep up her interest in educational
literature and the new ideas in what might have been her life work?
Would it not be well for the one-time stenographer to keep a gentle
hold upon the quirks and quirls which once brought to her her weekly
salary? A young mother of my acquaintance who was a concert violinist
of much ability has found no time for more than a year to practice,
"since baby came," and thousands of dollars spent in making her a
player are being thrown away. To some this might seem the right thing.
She has found "the home her sphere." To others it seems a serious
waste. We advocate often that the middle-aged woman who has reared her
children should return in some way to the work of the world outside
the home. In the case of the trained woman her training should be made
of use in such return. She should, however, beware lest her tools are
rusty from disuse.

We may not perhaps leave the questions involved in a discussion of
vocations as they affect homemaking without noticing that certain
occupations are considered especially dangerous to the moral stability
of girls. Nursing, private secretaryship, and domestic service present
dangers in direct proportion as they bring about isolated
companionship for the girl and a male employer. Girls must not enter
these employments without the knowledge of how to protect themselves
from lowering influences.



The question of vocation choosing begins to make itself felt far down
in the grammar school, first among the retarded and backward children
who are old for their grades and are merely waiting and marking time
until the law will allow them to leave school and go to work. These
children are usually either mentally subnormal or handicapped by
foreign birth and so unable to grasp the education which is being
offered them.

As soon as they are released the girls go to the factory, to the
store, or to help with some one's baby or with the housework. No other
places are open to them, and their possibilities in any place are few.
They cannot rise because they are mentally untrained.

The upper grades of the grammar school lose annually many children who
would be able to profit by the help the school offers to those who can
remain. Some drop out because they see no need of remaining when the
factory will employ them without further knowledge. Others chafe at
spending time on what seems to them, and what sometimes is, quite
unrelated to the life they will lead and the work they will do. Some
leave reluctantly, because their help is needed in financing a large
family. Many go gladly, because they will begin to earn and to have
some of the things they ardently desire. And until yesterday the
school paid little attention to their going, regarding it as one of
the necessary evils. Still less attention did it pay to what these
pupils became after they left. The school's responsibility ended at
its outer door.

Now that these conditions are being changed, the school is finding
responsibilities and opportunities on every hand. The foreign-born are
taken out of the regular grades where they cannot fit, and are taught
English by themselves first of all. The subnormal children are studied
for latent vocational possibilities, and where minds are deficient,
hands are the more carefully trained for suitable work. Courses are
being revised with a view to holding in school the boy or girl who
wants practical training for practical work. Secondary schools have
taken their eyes off college requirements long enough to consider
fitting the majority of their pupils to face life without the college.
Studies of vocations are being made; vocational training is being
offered; vocational guidance is at last coming to be considered the
concern of the school.

Vocational work is sometimes concentrated in the high school, but this
is reaching back scarcely far enough, since those who do not reach
high school need help quite as much as the older ones, while those who
expect to continue their training can do so better if they have some
idea of the goal to be reached.

What are the options that the grammar-school teacher may present to
the girls under her care?

First of all, as we have already said, the school records must be kept
with care and discrimination, so that the teacher may know the girl to
whom she speaks. With the records in hand, she will ask herself the
following questions:

1. Is further training at the expense of the girl's family
possible? Do the girl's abilities warrant effort on her
parents' part to give her further opportunity?

2. Could the girl's parents continue to pay her living expenses
during further training if the training were furnished at the
expense of the state?

3. Could the girl obtain training in return for her personal
service, either with or without pay?

4. Would the girl be able to repay in skill acquired the expense
of her training, whether borne by herself, her parents, or the

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
A flower-making class for girls of various ages. There is no reason
why vocational work should not begin in the grammar school]

Lines between obtainable work for the trained and the untrained girl
are fairly sharply drawn, and the possibilities for each type must be
clearly understood by the guide. If it is evident that training cannot
be obtained before the girl must begin to earn, the choice is
necessarily a narrow one. The factories in the neighborhood should be
thoroughly studied, and, under the guidance of the teacher, girls
should prepare detailed reports with respect to their working
conditions. The "blind-alley" job should be plainly labeled, that it
may not catch the girl unaware. Girls who must take up factory work
should at least be enabled to choose among factories intelligently,
and if possible should be fortified with an avocation that will supply
them with the interest their daily task fails to inspire and that will
provide an anchor against the instability toward which the factory
girl tends.

[Illustration: Millinery class in a trade school. Where trade schools
do not offer such training, there are opportunities for apprentice
work for girls]

The possibilities for apprentice work with dressmakers or milliners or
in other handwork should also be made known. Girls begin here, as in
the factory, at simple and monotonous tasks, but the possibilities of
advancement are far greater and mental development is unquestionably
more likely. The ability acquired by such workers, as they progress,
to undertake and carry through a complete piece of work is not only
satisfying to the workers themselves, but of value in later years.
They learn to analyze their constructive problems and to work out the
various steps of the work to its ultimate conclusion - a knowledge
which the factory girl never attains.

Some few girls will need to be shown the possibilities which lie in
independent productive work. For the girl who has talent or even
merely deftness in manual work, coupled with initiative and some
degree of originality, such work may bring a better return than
working for others. Most girls, however, lack courage to start upon
independent work, especially if they are in immediate need of earning
and are untrained. It often happens, however, that they do not
appraise at its true value the training they have received. The
grammar-school girl, under present methods of teaching, is often fully
qualified to do either plain cooking or plain sewing, but since she
does not desire to enter domestic service, she considers these
accomplishments very little or not at all in counting her assets for
earning. Some girls have found ready employment and good returns in
home baking, in canning fruit and vegetables, or in mending, making
simple clothes for little children, or in making buttonholes and doing
other "finishing work" for busy housewives. Work of these sorts,
undertaken in a small way, has often assumed the proportions of a
business, requiring all of a young woman's time and paying her quite
as well as and often better than less interesting work in shop or
factory. A girl of my acquaintance earns a comfortable living at home
with her crochet needle. Another has paid her way through high school
and college by raising sweet peas.

The untrained girl who loves an outdoor life has fewer opportunities
than other girls unless she is capable of independent work. If she is
capable of this and has sufficient ability to study her work,
gardening and poultry or bee culture may open the way for her to work
and be happy. School gardens, poultry clubs, and canning clubs have
shown many a girl what she may do in these ways.

[Illustration: Courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture
Some girls have built up a good business canning fruits and
vegetables at home]

Many times too little is realized of the possibilities of these
grammar-school girls who are crowded by necessity into the working
ranks. We cannot shirk our responsibilities in regard to them,
however, although they escape from our school systems and bravely take
up the burden of their own lives. Quite as many of these girls as of
more favored ones will marry and be among the mothers of the next
generation. The work they do in the interval between school and home
will leave its impress even more strongly than upon the girl whose
school life lasts longer and who is therefore older as well as better
equipped when she enters upon her work. Few of these younger girls in
times past can be said to have done anything other than drift into
work which would make or spoil their lives and perhaps those of their
children after them. It is well that the responsibility of the school
toward them is being recognized and met.

[Illustration: A prosperous poultry farm. Poultry farming opens the
way for the girl who loves an outdoor life to work in the open and be

A distinct duty of the grammar-school teacher is to make known the
facts concerning short cuts for grammar-school girls to office work.
Unscrupulous business "colleges" sometimes mislead these immature
girls into believing that a short course taken in their school will
enable the girls to fill office positions. Facts are at hand which
show the futility of attempting office work under such conditions, and
teachers should be very careful to see that all the facts are in the
possession of their pupils.

In the early days of high schools usually the only distinction, if
any, in courses was "general" and "classical." To-day we have many
courses, or in the larger cities different schools fit boys and girls
for varying paths in life. The college-preparatory course or the
classical high school leads to college. The commercial course or
school leads to office work. The manual training or industrial or
practical arts course or high school leads to efficient handwork. The
trade school leads to definite occupations. The difficulty now is to
help girls choose intelligently which course or school will best meet
their requirements. This involves vocation study in the grammar

[Illustration: Benson Polytechnic School for Girls, Portland, Oregon.
The trade school leads to definite occupations. The girl with
mechanical ability may find her vocation in millinery, dressmaking, or
the various sewing-machine trades]

The girl who terminates her formal education with her graduation from
high school may find herself not very much better placed, apparently,
than the girl who has dropped out of school farther back. Many
openings into desirable occupations are still closed to her. Often
her opportunities, however, are much greater than they seem. All facts
go to show that the high-school girl makes more rapid progress in
efficiency, and therefore in pay, than the younger girl, even when she
seems to begin at the same work. Some fields, too, are open to her
that are not usually possible for the grammar-school girl. In office
work the high-school girl who has specialized in her training may make
a very creditable showing. Many thousands of high-school graduates are
received into telephone exchanges where with a brief period of
practice they become efficient workers. A very few high-school girls
become teachers in country schools without further training, but the
number is decreasing every year. If she meets the age requirement, the
high-school girl may enter a training school for nurses, gaining her
specialized training in return for her services to the hospital.

The high-school girl who can spare time and money for some further
training finds a larger field open; but, to make the most of what high
school has to offer, her plans should be made as early as possible in
the high-school course - at the very beginning if it can be managed.
The girl must know what further training she is making ready for, must
choose electives in high school to help her make ready, or possibly to
offset the specializing of this later work by some general culture she
may otherwise miss entirely. Vocation study, therefore, and vocational
guidance must be quite as much a part of the course for the girl who
will "train" for her special work as for the girl who goes directly
from the secondary school to her vocation.

One high-school Senior writes: "My special vocation has not yet been
chosen, but if it becomes necessary for me to earn my own living I
should like to be either a nurse, a teacher, milliner, or director of
a cafeteria. I would probably choose the position that was open at the

Here we have the girl who is in no hurry to choose, and who probably
has a more or less vague notion of the comparative conditions,
requirements, and rewards of the four vocations she mentions. In
contrast to this, listen to a high-school student who has been
studying herself and her possible vocation in much detail in class
work. She says: "I find that I have made good school records only in
subjects where I had materials I could see and handle. I have never
done well in arithmetic or mathematics, but in drawing, physics,
elementary biology, and domestic science I made good marks. I do not
like to sew, because it tires me to sit still. I enjoy cooking and

"I like to plan meals and to make up new recipes. I hear that
hospitals and institutions employ women at very good salaries to buy
all the foodstuffs used in their kitchens. The expert dietitian also
plans meals and arranges dietaries. I learn that Teachers College,
Columbia, has courses of study leading to this profession, and I have
written to ask for full information."

In the class of which this girl is a member, each girl is considering
her future as this one is doing. Each gathers all available data in
regard to the vocation she is studying. Her reports become a part of
the class records. She makes as full a report as possible as to the
duties and responsibilities of the occupation, the schools or training
classes that prepare for it, the length and cost of preparation,
possibilities of employment, salaries paid, and other details.

Since training cannot alter fundamentals, but merely builds upon the
girl's nature and heredity, the same classifications obtain in the
choice of the girl who can have training as in that of the girl who
goes untrained to her vocation. There are still the producers, the
distributors, and those who serve; and it is still important that the
girl should find a place in the right group.

The producers will include the designers, the interior decorators, the
expert dietitians, the municipal inspectors of food and housing, rural
consulting housekeepers, state or country canning-club agents, the
women who organize and carry on model laundries, either co√ґperative or
otherwise, the managers of manufacturing enterprises, the farmers, the
photographers, the artists, the journalists, and the authors.

The distributors are chiefly represented by the higher type of office
workers, who are the "idea thinkers" of the business world, since they
neither make nor handle products, but merely manipulate the symbols
which stand for the products they seldom if ever see. The women who

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Online LibraryMarguerite Stockman DicksonVocational Guidance for Girls → online text (page 12 of 14)